In the current atmosphere, no man in his right mind would make light of sexual misconduct. Nor should we. Still, it’s tough to ignore the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” controversy that has been raging for years … even though I didn’t know it had been raging for years until last week.
Until then, the only thing I ever thought about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is that it was playful musical banter performed by really old people in even older movies. Since it was written in 1944, the call and response song been performed by duets ranging from Bing Crosby and Doris Day to Idina Menzel and Michael Buble. It’s probably only a matter of time until there’s a version by Kanye West and Taylor Swift.
But now I’m woke. Because last week USA Today published a point-counterpoint featuring two columnists debating whether the 73-year-old song shares the blame for today’s seemingly endless flood of sexual misconduct stories.
“Is this the year we finally retire ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside?,’” demanded Mary Nahorniak, the deputy managing editor for digital at USA Today. “In 2017, America woke up to the systemic sexual predation that pervades every corner of society, but some of our Christmas carols are stuck in the past. … In particular, the drumbeat against ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ is getting too loud to ignore.”
But before I could race home and burn all my “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” 78s, I read the counterpoint:
“Every year at Christmastime these days, as sure as fake antlers and Aunt Ruby’s fluorescent-cherry fruitcake, the feminists are out denouncing Frank Loesser’s 1940s seasonal-seduction duet ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ as ‘rapey,’” declared Charlotte Allen, a columnist for First Things magazine.
“As cheerless as Scrooge wondering why there are no workhouses, the sexual-assault sisterhood reads sinister subtexts into (Frank) Loesser’s lyrics every Yuletide. ‘Say, what’s in this drink?’ That’s all about roofies, the date-rape drug. ‘I ought to say no, no, no.’ That’s women being socialized by the patriarchy to be nice when they really want to get away. ‘I’ve got to get home — ‘Oh, baby, you’ll freeze out there.’ That’s him wearing her down into unwanted sex.
“I can’t decide whether these Grinch-ettes of rape culture have tin ears, tin eyes, tin brains, or all three. Have any of them ever heard the song sung?”
There are, I suppose, men like Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinsten whose sexual attitudes were influenced by hearing Dinah Shore sing “I really must go” and Bing Crosby crooning “But baby it’s cold outside.” If I were pointing fingers, though, they probably would be aimed at more recent songs with titles such as “Date Rape,” “Nookie” and “Me So Horny.”
But, as the headline above Ms. Allen’s, rebuttal noted, she thinks it’s time to “Chill out, culture police, on ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside.’”